Seven newly adopted children from earthquake-torn Haiti finally made it to their new Kansas homes today, after their anxious journey was delayed overnight in Chicago because of fog.
With almost no sleep for five days, an exhausted Tim and Alecia O'Byrne and their four adopted children interrupted morning services at First Baptist Church in Holton, where Tim is pastor, to show the congregation that they had made it.
"We came in the middle of a song and everyone started cheering," Alecia O'Byrne said.
The cheers, though, come also with fear and sadness, she said.
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"We hurt for everyone in Haiti," she said. "This is just horrible."
The O'Byrnes and two other families had been working for four years through Haiti Lifeline Ministries to complete the adoption of the seven children when the earthquake struck Tuesday.
One of the members of the mission team in Haiti was able to immediately call about the earthquake before the O'Byrnes had heard it on the news. The quake was terrible, but the children in the orphanage -- about 5 or 10 miles from Port-Au-Prince -- were OK, Alecia O'Byrne said.
"We went very numb," she said. They were relieved the children were OK, but they feared the adoptions, so near completion, would not get done.
But an attorney with the ministry began working with U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback's office, where aide Jamie Woodruff began two days of relentless effort with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti to bring the children home, O'Byrne said.
Getting the children out happened so quickly that they did not get a chance to say goodbye to the other children at the orphanage, which was hard on them, she said. They're still being mostly quiet as they and their new family try to recover from the chaos of the past week.
But after they all had stood before the O'Byrnes' congregation in Holton, as they were getting ready to leave to go home, the oldest of the adopted children -- 16-year-old Blandy -- asked to speak, O'Byrne said.
"He thanked everyone for praying for them," she said.
The O'Byrnes adopted two pairs of siblings, 16 and 15, and 7 and 5. Another family adopted a 17-year-old boy, and another family adopted two children, 14 and 11.
Many organizations and many more families are still trying to get united with orphaned children from Haiti, and the O'Byrnes wish and believe others can reach their new homes too.
"Something good can come from something so horrible," she said. "This (getting their children home) gives hope. It can happen. I believe it's going to happen."